Saints set to be involved in new cup competition

Saints lost in the semi-finals of the Anglo-Welsh Cup at Bath last season (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Saints lost in the semi-finals of the Anglo-Welsh Cup at Bath last season (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Saints will be playing in a new competition next season after Premiership Rugby announced they will be launching the Premiership Rugby Cup.

It will involve all 12 Gallagher Premiership Rugby clubs in a format including a new derby-day round.

With total prize money of more than half a million pounds, the new competition will be played over four pool rounds, including the derby day, semi-finals and final.

It will be a replacement for the Anglo-Welsh Cup as the Welsh regional teams have ended their 13-year involvement in the competition in favour of a new under-23 tournament.

“We are sad that our friends in the Welsh Regions will not be involved next season but we have been discussing for some time that they need to move a new structure, prioritising an under-23 format," said Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty.

“The (Anglo-Welsh) Cup has been a highly successful competition in recent years in helping develop the best new Premiership and England players, in front of big crowds and TV audiences.

“The pathway for young players is now clear linking the Under-18s League, the A League and now the Premiership Rugby Cup into one strong route towards Gallagher Premiership Rugby, European competitions and Test matches.

“Many Test players including Owen Farrell, George Ford and Maro Itoje all made their senior debuts in the Anglo-Welsh Cup and some of the most recent breakthrough players of the year have been Jack Nowell, Jonny May and Adam Radwan.

“In addition, the competition has seen many different club coaches taking responsibility for the cup team and developing their experience and skills in charge.

"This focus on new playing and coaching talent will continue in the new cup format with young players and coaches experiencing the challenge of bigger crowds and TV exposure.

“This season has seen record TV audiences throughout the competition and success in the final for Exeter Chiefs to support their quest for another Aviva Premiership Rugby title.

“More than 1.3m fans watched live coverage of the cup on BT Sport this season, a 37 per cent increase year on year.

"This competition is fundamental to developing young players for Premiership action in front of big crowds and more intense atmospheres.

The Premiership Rugby Cup will comprise three pools of four teams each and will kick off with the first two pool rounds starting on the last weekend of October and the second two starting at the end of January.

One of the second two rounds will see derby-day clashes for the 12 teams before the cup moves into the knockout phase with the three pool winners and the best runner up moving into the semi-finals.

The pool draw for the new Premiership Rugby Cup will be announced at the BT Tower on July 6.